Whether you frequent auctions online or off, you're mindful of the possibility that you may end up with a surprise after you've paid for your winning bid. I won't guess at a figure on what the good-to-bad ratio really is, but there's always a fair chance you'll be disappointed. I have to accept that as part of the process, and sometimes I'll get lucky - and sometimes I won't. This is one of those times where's it a little bit of both.
The auction had this labeled as a 'Kalart rangefinder', and it was one of 17 items within one lot. The photos shown were poor and badly lit - using a single on-camera flash that blew out whatever shiny highlights there were, and this blackish box seemed to soak up whatever light came near it. The camera was never fully shown or even presented in it's 'opened' state, making it difficult to see exactly what it was and what it's real worth might be. Just from the name given in the listing, I guessed it might be a Graflex, but it was far from certain if it was.
With limited time remaining, I wouldn't have the luxury of asking questions or doing tons of research using other photos as comparisons. It was too cheap not to at least put in a moderate bid. Needless to say, I won the auction, and was the only bidder beyond some picker's shotgun approach of bidding the opening bid amount of $19.99 USD and then walking away if it got bid up at all. The whole lot was mine at $20.50 plus the shipping.
Opening the package once it arrived offered some consolation when pulling the 4x5 out of it's bubble wrap. That was short-lived when I popped open the case and saw its contents. I set it up on a light stand for a quick hero shot in it's original state - complete with the included Stroboflash. From that photo alone, you might think it doesn't look so terrible after all, but with closer inspection of the innards, it will quickly have you backtracking that idea. The isolated views of the rails tells the sad state it's really in. The outer cabinet may have been wiped down in the listing photo to make things presentable for sale, but it's difficult to judge how many decades of dust, grit, and debris were caked into its box.
There's a small section visible in both the extended rail photos to compare the results of what's inside after at least 2 passes of cleanup on the edges at the attachment blocks - the thin sections outside the metal rails themselves. There actually is a non-reflective black board under all the brownish-gray crust on the surface. Aside from a non-functional front leaf shutter that only has 1 speed besides those for B and T... it actually seems to work, and everything else is present and accounted for. It might not be pretty now, but it deserves a better fate than what it's had up till now. From this point on, this is a sorely needed rescue. We'll see what happens with a little time and patience.
EDIT: After some time and lots of elbow grease, the cleaned and refreshed Graflex is now presentable, and usable. The photo insert at the top is the result, and as a gallery photo.